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Upfront Ad Market Starts to Move with Fox in Early Deals

Media buyers brace for more activity in days to come

TV’s upfront marketplace is starting to move.

The annual sales frenzy during which big TV networks sell the bulk of their ad inventory is getting underway, according to ad buyers familiar with the pace of negotiations.

These executives said Fox and ABC appear to be farthest along in terms of talking to clients and agencies and registering budgets, though all the TV players are actively holding discussions. People familiar with the situation said Fox had done some early deals and believed it might be possible ABC had as well.

These people said Fox was initially asking for hikes in the cost of reaching 1,000 viewers – a measure commonly used in these types of negotiations and also known as a CPM – of 8%, or in some cases, slightly higher. The bid is similar to Fox’s ask in last year’s discussions, when the network secured CPM increases of between 7% and 9%.

Indeed, ad buyers expect most of the broadcast networks to seek CPM increases in the high-single-digit percentage range, though they cautioned the volume of dollars available for broadcast TV is “probably down more than people had initially estimated,” in the words of one buying executive. Advertisers are giving more serious consideration this year to both cable programming as well as content that is streamed online and through digital means.

Cable networks are also making their pitch, ad buyers said, with Time Warner’s Turner in active discussions with agencies. As previously reported, Viacom moved quickly this year to secure ad-dollar volume by offering to be flexible on price. While some reports have suggested the company may be 50% to 60% complete with its upfront talks, some buyers remain skeptical. One facet of Viacom’s outreach, these buyers said, is to offer to beat terms from rivals such as NBCUniversal or Turner, which means the company may not be able to complete deals until its competitors’ terms are more fully known.

The Big Four nets and CW are expected to book around $9 billion in the coming days.

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